Goes beyond the basics to give good insight into the PMI. Well edited with few to no errors in spelling or sample problems. Sample questions are on par with actual exam questions. Plenty of exercises and practice questions.
Not a standalone resource, but works well in tandem with other prep resources. Rita’s process chart and guide are confusing and not useful to some.
Much easier to read than the PMBOK, and not as densely packed with complex information as Rita’s prep guides. Helps build a comfort level with the subject matter. Flows easily and is a quick but helpful study guide.
Subject matter and sample questions may be too simple and may not adequately prepare for test.
Easy to follow, with concepts and topics explained so they’re easy to grasp. Practice questions are in line with PMP exam’s questions.
PMP exam questions are much more difficult than the practice questions in this guide. Numerous spelling errors throughout the guide.
Covers the Earned Value portion of the PMP exam well, with relevant and challenging practice questions. Most find this prepares them well for EV portions of the exam.
Doesn’t match every student’s learning style. Some feel that it is too much prep for just a few EV questions on the actual exam.
Does a great job of highlighting major portions of the PMBOK. Breakdown of ITTOs is easy to understand. Focuses on process flows and builds a strong foundation for understanding project management concepts.
Layout and style of the book is somewhat clunky. Some find the book not detailed enough for their needs. Practice exam may not adequately prepare students for the actual PMP exam.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is the gold standard for project managers. It opens up more lucrative job opportunities and helps you stand out from uncertified applicants. But becoming a PMP isn’t easy. You must pass a challenging exam covering all of the key skills and concepts that a project manager needs to know. It isn’t uncommon for test takers to fail on their first try, but your chances of success are much higher if you study with a PMP prep book.
PMP prep books outline all of the most important details you need to know in order to feel confident on test day. The books take you through all the concepts covered on the exam and include test-taking strategies to help you approach different types of questions. Also included are sample questions and tests so you can gauge where you’re at and where you might need further study. But with so many different PMP prep books on the market, it can be difficult to know which ones are worth your time and money.
BestReviews has evaluated the top books and picked our favorites with input from certified PMPs who used them. Keep reading to learn more about the PMP exam and how to choose a good prep book.
Along with project management education and work experience, the PMP exam is one of the requirements you must complete in order to obtain the PMP certification, one of many professional development certifications offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI).
Once you pass the exam, your certification is good for three years. You must earn 60 continuing education credits within this three-year time period in order to remain certified or take the PMP exam again.
What does the PMP exam cover?
The PMP exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions, covering all aspects of project management, that you must answer within four hours. The questions fall into one of five domains. These aren’t broken down into specific sections on the exam, but you can expect to see a similar number of questions from each domain on each version of the test.
Initiating (26 questions)
Planning (48 questions)
Executing (62 questions)
Monitoring and controlling (50 questions)
Closing (14 questions)
How is the PMP exam scored?
Scored and unscored questions: There are 200 questions on the PMP exam, but only 175 of those are scored. The remaining 25 questions are unscored pretest questions. The test creators include these so they can assess the difficulty of the questions and possibly add them to graded portions of future versions of the test. There’s no way to know which questions are the pretest questions, so you have to treat every question as if it counts.
Difficulty: Each of the scored questions is assigned a value based on its degree of difficulty. You earn more points for correctly answering difficult questions than you do for easy ones. This also means that the number of questions you need to get correct in order to pass varies slightly from one version of the test to the next.
Passing score: PMI doesn’t release any information about the required passing score for the exam. Your score report just gives you a rating of Proficient, Moderately Proficient, or Below Proficient. You may be able to get by with a single Below Proficient, but to give yourself the best chance of passing, you want to score at least Moderately Proficient in every category.
When you’re studying for the exam, most experts agree that 70% is a good benchmark to aim for. If you’re concerned, you can also try aiming a little higher, so that if you fall short of your goal on the real test, you may still be within the passing range.
Thorough, straightforward preparation
Rita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam Prep covers all sections of the exam with insights that only an experienced project manager could provide. And many students say the hundreds of sample questions are on par with the real exam. Detailed explanations help you understand why an answer is right or wrong.
Here are the most important things you should look for when choosing a PMP prep book.
It’s always wise to begin your studies with a diagnostic assessment. This will give you a sense of which domains you’re already performing well in and which ones you might need to brush up on. A good PMP prep book will have either a diagnostic exam or multiple full-length practice tests so you can use one as a diagnostic test.
In-depth content review
Your PMP prep book should thoroughly cover each of the five domains, adhering closely to the guidelines outlined in the latest version of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). This is a guide released and periodically updated by PMI that outlines everything you need to know for the exam. It doesn’t teach you test-taking strategies or give you many opportunities for practice, however, which is where a PMP prep book comes in.
Some project managers have developed formulas for approaching certain types of questions to help you quickly eliminate wrong answers and identify question wording that may impact the answer. These strategies can be useful, especially if you find yourself struggling with a particular type of question.
Good sample questions can help familiarize you with the test difficulty and format. They’re also a great way to home in on areas where you need more practice. Most PMP prep books have practice questions throughout, so you can test your comprehension as you go.
It’s important to make sure that the questions listed in your PMP prep book are of similar difficulty as those in the real exam and provide detailed explanations to help you understand why an answer is correct or incorrect. You can get some sense of this by reading reviews of the book written by people who have already taken the exam.
Full-length practice tests
Full-length practice tests are a good way to gauge your progress as you proceed through the book. The best PMP books will include multiple versions of the exam so you don’t have to go over the same questions again and again.
Not all PMP prep books offer additional resources, but some may give you a link to an online portal with videos or other tools to help you study. Some books may also come with flashcards or graphics to help you visualize difficult concepts.
In order to take the PMP exam, you must complete the education and work experience prerequisites and then apply and pay for the exam.
You should devote the most studying time to the three largest domains – planning, executing, and monitoring and controlling – because these are worth the most points.
Space out your practice tests throughout your studying so you can better monitor your progress.
PMP prep books range in price from under $10 to around $100. The cost depends on the book’s format and the information it contains. In most cases, you’ll have your choice of an ebook or printed version. If you’re on a budget, always go with the ebook version because they’re cheaper than the printed versions. But if you don’t enjoy reading on screens, a printed version would be the better option.
Limited scope: Some books focus only on the most challenging concepts and highlight important test-taking strategies. These books are typically not as detailed as a comprehensive guide, but they can be useful if you already have a good handle on most of the material and you just want to brush up before the test. These books usually cost anywhere from $10 to $35.
Comprehensive: If you spend more, you’ll get a comprehensive prep book that covers all aspects of the exam in detail and gives you plenty of opportunities to practice what you learn with sample questions and tests. Some of the best-selling books of this type sell for as much as $100.
User-friendly format packed with info
Looking deceptively simple at first glance, the Head Start PMP prep book provides a thorough grounding in all the key concepts you’ll need to know. Dozens of real-world examples help you see how these skills play out in professional situations.
Create a study schedule and stick to it. Try to work through a section of your PMP prep book each day to keep yourself on track.
Time yourself whenever you take a practice test. Taking the test within a time limit will give you a better indication of where you are, and it will also help you practice your time-management skills.
Use the results from your diagnostic exam to guide your study. Make sure you spend extra time on the areas where you performed less well.
Q. Should I buy a PMP prep book or sign up for a prep course?
A. That all depends on how you learn best. If you struggle to stay on task on your own, a live course is probably a good option for you. Independent learners can do quite well with a PMP prep book. It gives them the freedom to work through the material at their own pace and skip over what they already know.
Q. When should I start studying for the PMP exam?
A. It’s generally recommended that you set aside at least a couple of months to study for the exam. Once you decide on your test date, work backward from there and figure out how much you can do each day. This will give you some idea of when you ought to begin studying.
Q. Can I use an older PMP prep book to study for the exam?
A. Your PMP prep book should be aligned with the latest version of the PMBOK. Otherwise, you may end up learning outdated material that could cause you to get a lower score on the exam.